The Voyage of the Arctic Tern

Style: Good

Attitude: Positive

In Brief: Remorse at assisting in an evil act, however tempted; redemption by finding and punishing the person responsible.

Cover of The Voyage of the Arctic Tern

Author: Hugh Montgomery

Publisher: Walker

Published in: 2002

Age Range: Children+

Period: 17th C

Setting: The open sea, England & Spain

Genres:  AdventureHistoricalSeafaringSpooky


  • Bruno, captain of the Arctic Tern, is doomed to sail on until he has done enough good to make up for a moment of weakness long ago which doomed his people.
  • Morgan the Pirate is Bruno's nemesis who tricked him before and who now tries to thwart his plans to do good.
  • Adrian the Barman, Chris the Doctor, and Lord Hunter the Admiral, are Bruno's crew on the voyage to the King of Spain.


Lord Hunter travels on the Arctic Tern with a message of peace from Queen Elizabeth of England to the King of Spain. When they arrive, they discover that the king is under the influence of Lord Morgan, an evil man who wants only power and riches.

Bruno and his friends save the king but when they leave Spain, having made peace, Morgan chases them and they face a climactic sea battle just off Plymouth.


Literary: Unusually, this book is written in verse, simple and rhythmic, and obviously best read aloud. The overall presentation is very attractive: the edition I read was hardbound with coarse paper, giving the impression of age. The illustrations by Nick Poullis complement it very well. Although the story is simple and should appeal to children from quite a young age, some of the vocabulary might need explanation, at least at first, which could break the flow of the story quite a bit.

Attitude: Really, this is an adventure story bound up with one man's redemption, and another's damnation. Bruno, the captain of the Tern, was a simple islander long, long ago and betrayed his people for some jewels. The shades of his dead friends carried on ghostly ships, told him that two prove his remorse he would have to save a life, rescue someone betrayed, and give great wealth away. This book is the story of his quest. Likewise, Mad Dog Morgan, the one who tricked him years ago, is still out to thwart him now.

And through this fog appeared twelve ships;

Each travelled in the wake before

And made their way towards the man,

And dropped their anchors near the shore.

And on each boat a fisherman

Stepped up and stood along the side

And stared at him from ghostly decks

Which rolled and created upon the tide.

He looked in terror through the fog

And instantly he knew the boats.

Nor did it take a second glance

To recognise the fishing folk.

These were the friends whom he had left;

The ones who'd suffered at his hand

Who lay, a thousand miles away,

In icy graves of frozen land.

Friday 9th January 2004